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Serbia: Thousands Hit Belgrade Streets Despite Parliament's Concession

Belgrade, 12 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Street protests continued today in Belgrade despite Parliament's decision to reinstate opposition victories won in local elections last November.

The bill, passed yesterday after three months of non-stop demonstrations, took effect today after it was published in the official government gazette.

By midday today, however, thousands of striking teachers from schools across Serbia had surrounded the parliament building to press their demands for overdue pay and higher wages.

An estimated 20,000 students also hit the streets in their daily march, while independent trade union leaders set up a soup kitchen to feed the hungry.

The main opposition coalition Zajedno called its supporters to an evening rally and Zoran Djindjic, one of its leaders, was quoted as saying that he expected protests to continue across Serbia "until larger changes than the return of stolen votes happen."

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe welcomed Parliament's decision to reinstate the opposition victories but OSCE chairman Niels Helveg Petersen called it "only the start" of the democratization of Serbia.